The Giant Mekong Catfish is listed as “critically endangered” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). It faces a high risk of extinction in the wild. The specimen below was captured in 2005 in the Mekong River in Chiang Khong district and is the largest fish measured since Thailand began keeping records in 1981.
Endemic to the lower half of the Mekong river, this catfish is in danger of extinction due to overfishing, as well as the decrease in water quality due to development and upstream damming.
Fishing for the Mekong giant catfish is illegal in the wild in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, but the bans appear to be ineffective, with the fish continuing to be caught in all three countries. However, in recognition of the threat to the species, nearly 60 Thai fishermen agreed to stop catching the endangered catfish in June 2006, to mark the 60th anniversary of Bhumibol Adulyadej’s ascension to the throne of Thailand.
Thailand is the only country that allows fishing for private stocks of Giant Mekong catfish, this is helping to save the species as the lakes purchase the small fry from the government breeding program generating extra income that allows the breeding program to function.
This species needs to reach 50 – 70 kg to breed, it does not breed in lakes. The Thailand fishery Department has been running a breeding program to re-stock the Mekong River. It is yet to be seen if the fish will spawn.
Regardless, catfish are still for sale in the markets locally – source unknown…